Queensland has won its 24th State of Origin shield with a comprehensive 32-6 victory over New South Wales at Suncorp Stadium last night.
After a 26-18 victory in Adelaide at the end of May, the Maroons were looking to capitalise on the win, and they did just that to take the series with a game in hand.
Game two had everything in it: injuries, tension, pressure, relentless defensive efforts and strong attacking plays.
In the 50th minute Stephen Crichton was held-up inches from the NSW line at 16-0, but a minute later, Murray Taulagi ran up the right side of the field before banana-kicking over a handful of NSW players and an unfavourable bounce for Payne Haas allowed Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow to swoop and put Queensland beyond NSW’s reach.
After the match Maroons captain Daly Cherry Evans said: “[I] just never get sick of winning in front of this crowd… it’s so special.
“When we run out of the tunnel, energy hits us that’s seen nowhere else in the world.
“We know we’ve got footy in us. It’s our ability to defend the try line that has got us the results these two games”.
#StateofOrigin just finished 32-6. Completely uneven competition. They should really cut a team.
— Harrison Dale (@harrisondale88) June 21, 2023
The pressure was on the Blues to recover from their loss in Adelaide, but injuries to key players such as Nathan Cleary and Api Korisau plagued the team before the match started.
That situation worsened for the Blues last night within minutes as Manly superstar Tom Trbojevic dislocated his pectoral.
Five minutes later Queensland received a 20-metre restart after a poor kick from Mitchell Moses and the Maroons swiftly took the ball up the field. Josh Addo Carr could not catch the ball from Cameron Munster’s kick, allowing Valentine Homes to run around lone defender Damian Cook and score a diving try – holding onto the ball by his fingertips.
After Queensland broke the deadlock, the intensity inside Suncorp stadium rose with Tom Flegler and Hudson Young clashing. By the 25th minute, NSW was running 122.2 metres per minute and Queensland 113 metres per minute. The average NRL team runs 88.
Despite the intense conditions, the Blues had 56 per cent of the possession in the first half. Still, they couldn’t capitalise off this possession as combinations between players were lacking. This combined with Queensland’s tight defence led to opportunity after opportunity wasted for the Blues.
The Blues best chance at scoring in the first half happened when Crichton intercepted a kick on the New South Wales line and ran 80 metres. However, Cherry Evans tackled the centre on the 20-metre line.
A few minutes later, Queensland’s lock Patrick Carrigan broke free from the NSW defensive line and offloaded the ball to Cherry Evans. The Maroons then moved left rapidly, and Taulagi received the ball where he scored in the 34th minute, stopping the Blue’s growing attack momentum.
At the restart Queensland created a set piece from Cherry Evans to Reece Walsh, who tapped it on to Valentine Holmes. Holmes then scored a try two minutes into the second half, creating an even bigger mountain for the New South Welshman to climb.
After Tabuai-Fidow’s try gave Queensland a handy lead over New South Wales, the Blue’s five-eighth, Jarome Luai, passed a short ball to Young, and he broke through the Queensland defence. Only a couple of plays later did the ball reach Cook, which sparked some hope for the Blues as he broke through a rare disorganised Queensland defence to take the game to 20–6.
However, frustration and fatigue plagued the Blues as Queensland’s fullback Walsh assisted his fellow Broncos teammate Xavier Coates to score an aerial try in the 66th minute, taking the game to 26-6. The Maroons were relentless in attack as Munster booted a cross-field kick in the 74th minute, which saw Addo Carr and Cook crash into each other mid-air. This collision led Jermani Nanai to ground the ball with no NSW player.
Late drama descended in Brisbane as Addo-Carr took his frustration out on Walsh with a punch which prompted Walsh to head butt Addo-Carr’s teammate Luai. Luai then headbutted Walsh back, leading all three players to be sin-binned with 20 seconds to go.
— NRL (@NRL) June 21, 2023
Moving forward to game three, the Maroons will look to clean sweep the Blues for the fifth time at Accor Stadium in Sydney. The final match of the three-game State of Origin series will be on July 12 at 8:05pm, and viewers can watch it on free-to-air Channel 9.
Main image screenshot courtesy Channel 9.